Wednesday, 5 March 2014


How does someone become "successful"? Whatever your field, you probably know of someone doing what you're doing, who is, to your bewilderment, far more successful than you. How many of us can make a better hamburger than McDonalds? Probably most of us!
Ronald McDonald...But how come Ronald is the richest clown on earth and we're scratching for parking-meter money? In studying the successful, one thing becomes clear: Success is not the domain of the most educated, the most beautiful, or even the hardest working.
¶ I have observed something else under the sun. The fastest runner doesn't always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn't always win the battle. The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don't always lead successful lives. It is all decided by chance, by being in the right place at the right time. 

Ecclesiastes 9:11 NLT
Success is not a matter of luckSuccess means different things. Despite what many think, attaining "success" is not merely a matter of 'luck'. Success nearly always has its reasons. The Successful know what these reasons are and how to implement them. But when the reasons and causes of success are not obvious, often survival takes precedence over success.
For example, I see this too many times with parents. They end up feeling frustrated that their kids won't do as they're told. No matter what bribes are offered or apparent levels of discipline exercised, these parents just don't seem to succeed with their kids. Similarly with some people who go into business and end up working long hours and losing money. They often blame the economy, their staff, or the government in their frustration. And we've all met people who tell us how they are trying to lose weight, but instead, put more on. These people are unsuccessful at losing weight. The difference between the successful and the unsuccessful is not simply effort.
¶ Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.
Ecclesiastes 9:11


Strategic planningIf you've ever attended a leadership or success seminar, you will undoubtedly hear that in order to succeed, you have to have a "Strategic Plan". A Strategic Plan is developed after a process of discovering the vision, the mission, and the goals a person or organisation has. The Successful have all done this formally (or at least informally). This includes successfully married couples and parents. This is why when I prepare a couple for marriage, I take them through a strategic plan process(although I don't call it this). But this is not the formula for success. It is one of the mistakes that people striving for elusive success make when they go through the process of Strategic Planning and think that the process itself is the formula for certain success. For a couple preparing for marriage, who want to succeed in their marriage, they need to answer the 'why' question (agree on their marriage's purpose) and the 'where' question (where is their marriage going to end up?). Parents need to do the same. But, to repeat myself, it is a mistake to think that this is all they need to do to succeed. Planning is considered by many to be "the key to success". It may be the 'key' but it only works if it's put into the right door-lock! It is a mistake to think that having the "key" is the same as being successful.
Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.
Joshua 1:7
It is not uncommon for this mistake to be made even bigger when Christians are involved! Here's why…

All too often Christians generally make a simplistic series of mistakes when it comes to achieving success - thinking that they are being "faithful" Christians. Attend most Church Leadership (Success) Conferences and you'll hear why Vision is important, and Mission is equally important, and Goals are necessary. But the biggest mistake many Christians make is to think that they themselves play no part in whether they are successful or not (believing that God - and God alone - determines whether someone is successful). Of course, they don't call success: "luck" (they call it "being blessed") but they way think of "blessing" they might as well call it "luck"! The fact that Scripture commands believers, surely means that believers have the privilege to make choices and play a role in the direction of their life.
And David had success in all his undertakings, for the LORD was with him.
First Samuel 18:14
The third biggest mistake that Christians often make is to think that every problem is solved by prayer. "I guess all we can do is pray about it", they say. But this is rarely "all" we can do about it. Parents might pray that their pre-schooler learns the alphabet. They might pray really long and hard. But this is not all they can do in order to see their prayer answered! Similarly, pastors who want to see their church grow, should not think, "All I can do is pray." Pastors. like everyone else need to ask and answer the "how" question. Under the Old Covenant when God told Moses to construct the Tabernacle, Moses selected skilled and intelligent men who knew how to build. No one would accuse Moses of neglecting to pray, but praying isn't all that Moses did.
¶ "Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whom the LORD has put skill and intelligence to know how to do any work in the construction of the sanctuary shall work in accordance with all that the LORD has commanded."
Exodus 36:1
Babolat WiFi tennis racquetThe fourth mistake about success, that is in risk of being worn-out, is that any success can only come about with the latest technology. Bear Grylls catches fish out in the wild with a long shoelace and a paper-clip, yet our local boating/fishing store advertised a fishing rod on our local TV station last night for $499! Hollywood has at times spent millions of dollars to produce viral YouTube clips and flopped more times than they care to admit. Yet some bored bloke with his $40 flip-phone, videos himself tickling his kitten and it gets 24 million views overnight! My racquet company of choice, Babolat, has just released a tennis racquet that is WiFi connected to a player's iPhone via an app which is allegedly going to help someone to play better tennis!


Parents need to ask the 'How?' question in order to learn the skills necessary to foster happy, disciplined, polite, teachable, cooperative children. The Bible is replete with "How" advice for parents (such as, train, teach, counsel, discipline, establish boundaries, model the fear of the Lord, demonstrate reverence for God's Word and God's House, and so on). Business people need to also ask the "Yes, but how do we do it?" question. The Bible has things to say about this as well (invest appropriately, do your research, work diligently, treat staff well, sell at a fair price, remember the poor, and so on). But the Bible does not restrict the answer to the "How?" question merely to its own pages. The Bible encourages us to find wisdom and understanding beyond its pages in nature, in others, and in the writings of others.
¶ Go to the ant, O sluggard;
consider her ways, and be wise.

Proverbs 6:6
When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.
Second Timothy 4:13


Discovering how to do something is a two-stage process. The first stage is learning. It involves being instructed. It takes humility. It means acknowledging and discarding poor practices and adopting new ones. Thus, answering the 'how?' question demands change and it will not negotiate our terms of surrender. As difficult as this first stage of answering the 'how?' is, it is a walk in the park compared to the second stage: implementation. To implement a correct (but different) strategy requires great courage. The person who has tried and failed to lose weight is shown how to actually lose weight and is then expected to be at a friend's birthday party that night. It takes great courage to implement the proven plan in the midst of great temptation to do other.
¶ So here's what I think: The best thing you can do right now is to finish what you started last year and not let those good intentions grow stale.
Second Corinthians 8:10 MSG
The Pastor who learns 'how' to lead his church into growth must change what he has been doing (or what has been done), and then have the courage to wisely pastor his church through this period of change. Most pastors realise that for a church to grow past 200 people it must do several things better (AKA: "different"): train the church to care for each other, develop gifted leaders who are able to lead and exercise decision-making, connect everyone into a small group, shift the focus from 'meetings' to spiritual growth and health, phase-out insecurity and phase-in 'team' and, develop a "How" Strategy that everyone in the church knows and implements.
...we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Ephesians 4:15b-16

For a church to grow in this manner it too must get the 'how?' answer. This is called being strategic. It's one thing to want something, but it's another entirely to know how to get it, and an utterly entirely other thing to have the courage to persist in doing it - even though in the short-term it looks like a complete failure! Parents will experience this when they introduce long-overdue boundaries for their children. Businesses will experience this when they implement new management structures and systems. Churches will experience this when they begin to implement the above list. And those trying to lose weight may even find they initially gain weight as their body-fat converts to the heavier body-muscle!

If you have ever discovered how to do something after a time of frustration in not knowing how to do something, you'll know the sheer joy and delight that comes with it. Finding out "how" comes from finding someone who does know how, and asking them to share their 'know-how'. It also comes from reading books written by people who know how. And one of the most accessible ways to discover 'how' is in a good church where teaching things relevant to living well are frequently addressed directly and modelled by many indirectly.


There is a holy problem which causes all Christian leaders to continually ask: "How?" It is referred to as The Great Commission. Christian leaders who think deeply about this sacred problem, ask "How can we fulfil the Great Commission of discipling nations?" It soons becomes apparent that the answer is far bigger than one local church. It encompasses the health of churches in a community, the level cultural receptivity to the claims of the Bible, the way the media and arts portrays the claims of Christ and His followers, how these churches engage with the broader community, and the means used to communicate the Gospel with the world. Even the Apostle Paul asked the "How?" question about these issues. And so should we.
¶ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!"
Romans 10:14-15


As one of these Christian leaders who does continually ponder "How?" we can fulfil our part of the Great Commission, it is my hope that more and more followers of Christ will learn how to succeed individually, in their marriages, in their families, in their careers, in their businesses, and in their churches -- so that this kind of success becomes the training ground for the realsuccess that we must somehow find when it comes to discipling the nations of the world. This is why I have always told my children they can have whatever they want - we just have to figure out how.

Ps. Andrew

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